Theatrhythm Fi­nal Fan­tasy: Cur­tain Call

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For once, there’s an air of res­o­lu­tion about a Fi­nal Fan­tasy game. Pro­ducer Ichiro Hazama has hinted the Theatrhythm tem­plate could be ap­plied to other se­ries, but Cur­tain Call is com­pre­hen­sive enough to make a di­rect follow-up ir­rel­e­vant. The orig­i­nal looks miserly next to the 221 songs here, and with over 60 char­ac­ters to add to your party, more op­tions than any­one could ever need, and a wealth of tro­phies and un­lock­ables that only the most ded­i­cated play­ers will get close to ex­haust­ing, few se­quels are so gen­er­ous.

Its track­list is split be­tween up-tempo Bat­tle and gen­tler Field stages, with nos­tal­gic but com­par­a­tively dull Event stages rel­e­gated to an oc­ca­sional sideshow. Again, you’re tasked with hit­ting rhyth­mic mark­ers as they scroll by while your party am­bles along a path or faces off against a se­ries of monsters. The struc­ture has changed, how­ever: from the start, you can now choose to play any stage from the 25-plus fea­tured FF games across any of the three dif­fi­culty modes, or tackle a Quest Med­ley, a branch­ing map where each node con­tains a song, and its ter­mi­nus yields crys­tal shards, your cur­rency for un­lock­ing new party mem­bers.

Cur­tain Call doesn’t fix what wasn’t bro­ken about its pre­de­ces­sor, nor mend what was. It’s too easy to get S rank or higher on Ex­pert, even with sev­eral misses, and the game is in­con­sis­tent about the tim­ing that de­fines a Crit­i­cal hit. Nei­ther con­trol scheme is ideal: sty­lus swipes are all too of­ten mis­read, but there’s too much travel on 3DS’s ana­logue nub to shift be­tween di­ag­o­nal cues rapidly, and if an un­du­lat­ing line cue ends in a di­rec­tional marker you’re forced to re­move your thumb a split-sec­ond early be­fore push­ing it in the right di­rec­tion, lest it be mis­in­ter­preted as an early in­put.

Like the awk­ward port­man­teau in its ti­tle, the game’s fu­sion of rhythm-ac­tion and RPG never quite fits as neatly as you’d hope. As Quest Med­leys get tougher, you might use items to re­fill your health bar or in­crease the like­li­hood of a rare loot drop, but there’s no real strat­egy in­volved. Each level in­crease is adorably cel­e­brated by your crew of mar­i­onettes, but th­ese tiny stat boosts feel mean­ing­less. And fudg­ing your way to suc­cess with a se­ries of items feels a lot like cheat­ing; be­sides, if you’re good enough, you’ll hit enough Greats and Crit­i­cals to pass a stage with­out in­jury.

Still, as a cel­e­bra­tion of the works of Messrs Ue­matsu, Saki­moto, Ha­mauzu and co, this farewell tour pulls out all the stops; an age­ing su­per­group play­ing not just its great­est hits but its B-sides, too, as well as some lit­tle-heard ob­scu­ri­ties from the early days. It may not win any new fans, but it’s an en­core that will earn warm ap­plause from the de­voted.

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